Mysteries of The Hidden Estate, Chapter 19-20

Spitty gets a proposal. The defense counselor takes on Jorge the pirate.

Chapter 19.

The Empty Lands.

Major Battlehelm turned to the captain and said, “How did you find this?”

Captain Brownlow grinned and replied, “Sir, I thought about how the projector mirror and rocket needed to get to the Hidden City. They would have had to use a barge or ship and the barge wasn’t at the Hidden City or sunk offshore. At least none of the seafolk could find it. So I started to look along the coast here, since the thing was not at the Retreat and looked for a canal in the aerial pictures. There it was. The mouth isn’t easy to get to, but the aerials tracked the canal and there was the town and the building in the middle of the woods with the remains of a road going in. I requisitioned a bulldozer and a crew and we are about finished with the road.”

“Good work, captain. How did you get the bulldozer?”
“I talked to Tanyl Zylvyre and he arranged it. They can use the road to cut timber and the canal can barge down the timber to tidewater. That’s if Beinans doesn’t want this place.”

A GP drove up and Tanyl and Iefyr got out. Tanyl was grinning as he said, “You found it, Captain!”

“That wasn’t hard, Lord Zylvyre. The hard part was getting in here in the first place.”

“Now we have to dredge the canal out and then we can move timber down the canal. What did this place do?”
“We think it was where the Projector mirror was fabricated.”
“The launch vehicle as well?”
The major looked at Tanyl and said, “Somebody has been talking to the Skychasers.”

“They disrupted my island hide away by dropping something on it. My wife sent my niece down to collect me.”

“That does happen with them. I think that they will want to look at this place.”

“So do I.”

Zirgoccol.

Spitty opened his door, saw Orik and a Trooper sergeant, sighed and said, “Detective, you don’t have anything on me and I’m not going to talk with you, even if you bring a Trooper.”

“Spitty we just want to talk. You brought some rather hot goods to the Beinans and handed them to the guard. We just want to talk to you about them.”
“I found them and returned stolen property.”
“We know.  We just want to talk about where you found them and who told you about the goods.”

“I don’t snitch.”

“Then I’m going to have to haul you to the Troopers’ station as this is a consul level crime.”

“All right, do you have a warrant?”
Orik handed Spitty a sheet of paper. Spitty looked at it, looked at Orik and said, “I guess I don’t have a choice. Cuff me.”

Orik did and they went to the car. Once they were in the car, Orik turned around and removed the cuffs before Roger started the car. As the car drove off, Spitty said, “So what does uncle want now?”

“Spitty, this is Roger Bloodfoot and he has a proposition for you. Roger this is Spitfire Swiftflyer. As you can guess, he’s the black scale of the family.”

“So what crazy thing does uncle want and how does it connect to the characters trying to make me a patsy. Roger, how come you aren’t on the track with a team?”

“You knew who I was?”
“Roger, I won a pile on you at the track until the bookies got wise and even more when the harlot couldn’t get you as another notch on her bed. I don’t think you know what a reputation you have in this town.”

“As a result of not taking the harlot to bed and some other things, Lori’s dad made sure that I couldn’t get a job in the industry and since dad is a trooper, I signed up. I was sent to Fayspire to be forgotten, met a strange Imperial and made some new connections. Your uncle doesn’t want you for the crazy, but I have been tasked by those who do to recruit you.”

“So my uncle isn’t involved?”
“Only tangentially, since this involves my case,” Orik said with a bit of a laugh. “When you dropped those things off at Beinans, you attracted the attention of some people and they thought that you would want to see that the people that made you a patsy were slapped for it.”

“What’s in it for me?”
“That’s an interesting question,” Roger said. “Some easy money and contact with some people with clout. Maybe slapping some idiots.”
“What are the strings attached? I’m still tied to my uncle and that hasn’t been all Goblin dinners.”
“My grandfather has been known to hire disreputable types and Oceanside is a nice place.”

“So now I have both the Colonel and the Dragonmaster wanting favors. Don’t tell me that Halamar is involved too.”
“I won’t tell you that the Beinans are involved, since you already know.”

“I’m going to kick myself, but whose the target?”
“EiMagic.”
“Count me in.”
“What did Ayre do to you?”
“Ask the detective here. He was involved as well. But when somebody stiffs you after you do a job for them, they shouldn’t be surprised when things go bad. The clown had a patsy, of course. The patsy was a friend of mine.”

“They didn’t stiff you?”
“Not me. When my buddy got sent up for a life sentence, doing that rubbed me the wrong way. So, if you have a way to punch them a bit, I’m in.”

“I thought that you would be,” Orik said. “Spitty, I know that you know that strings work both ways.”

“So what next?”
“Since you can’t Jump, Spitty, you and I take the train to Fayspire, since that is where you supposedly set the Beinan building on fire while robbing the place.” Roger said.
“I haven’t been out of town for a couple of moons and I have witnesses to that. I also don’t have a car, there were no trains into Fayspire during the evacuation and only somebody crazy would pull off a small time robbery in a city that was evacuated because there was a Scourge devise in the neighborhood.”

“I’m sure that you have witnesses. In fact I checked before we picked you up and confirmed that. All you did was make off with some stolen goods that somebody else left in a building to set you up. We know just who was in Fayspire and where they went. I don’t think that you are crazy enough to conduct petty robbery in a building without something worth the risk and you don’t have the connections or skills to make it worth the risk. After all you aren’t working for Paeris Zyvlyre, are you?”
“If I was, I wouldn’t be telling the detective. For that matter, I wouldn’t be bothering with small time stuff.”
“Why do you bother with small time stuff?”
“First of all, to keep my hand in things. If I just did the sort of things that my uncle wants, that would let my connections dry up and make people suspicious. But if I’m always pulling a small job, I can use those jobs as cover when uncle wants something bigger. Then there are people that deserve to get slapped. But most of the time, the petty theft is to cover getting things that uncle wants.”
“Why are you telling me?”
“First of all, I figure that you are in the same boat with your grandfather. Second, I figured that you already knew.”

Roger laughed. “You got me. Of course my problems have gotten bigger the last few moons.”

Chapter 20.

Ishendell.

“Lissy!”

Getrid realized that he must have been rather occupied in the coming task as he hadn’t even noticed one of the Republic’s current top models until she ran right to another top model, the rather feline Lissia and hugged her. He turned to Rogerd and said, “Out of your league.”

“So says the married man. I, on the other hand, am still available. Let’s get the boys out of the terminal and see who is here to pick us up.”

Getrid and Rogerd managed to get the boys and the luggage squared away when a young elven girl and young fae male walked up and the girl said, “Mr. Ironaxe?”

“Yes?”
“I’m Alinis Harper and this is Fireoak Greenleaf.  I’m here to get you to the portal.”

“Do we need to check in with customs?”
“We’re in the Republic and the Empire handles that differently. Since you are porting right to the estate, entry and customs are not an issue. I brought staff to help my cousins handle the load, though I probably shouldn’t have.”
“Alinis, what did we do?” Edrym whined.

“I’m sure that you are thinking of something. Leave Lissia alone. I know her fiance and you aren’t in his league.”

Alinis waved at some rather large types wearing slave collars who collected the baggage and the group started out of the terminal to the portal. There was a perimeter and a high guard soldier who waved them through and Getrid asked Alinis, what if these characters ran?”

“Tolith, what would happen if you ran?” Alinis asked the slave passing trunks through the portal.
“Lady, if I did that, my wife would be annoyed, my kids would be annoyed, my mother would be annoyed and tell your mother. Why would I want that much grief? Let’s get you all home, princess so that I can get back to what I am supposed to be doing.”

“Are your family hostages?” Getrid asked.

 “My family is a responsibility, sir. Yes, I could go back to the Republic where daddy was taken from, but then I would have to get my family to want to leave. There’s the last trunk, so, young lady, you and Fire port through with these people and I will be right behind you.”

The group ported out and Getrid asked, “Why is Tolith going last?”
“Because that way he can tell Hagre, his boss, that we ported through. If somebody plays games with the portal, Hagre and daddy will know almost immediately.”

“I see. They are security.”
“Since I was kidnapped by the Richlfights two years ago, that is a burden I have had to have for the most part, at least in places like here that I don’t usually go.”

Lissia watched the rather interesting group port out and said, “I will have to find out what they are up to.”
“Who?” Stacey asked. “There was that young girl and the fae, meeting that other group.”

“The girl was Alinis Qinvaris. Quite a character. She and her brother are in sort of a race to make the biggest Imperial find before they are twenty. Her brother already has a huge head start. He opened the Mage Queen’s vaults.”

Stacey laughed. “That explains the two guides.”

“You knew who they were?”
“I did a shoot in a cave and they were our handlers. Very professional, unfortunately. Getrid is married, but Rogerd is kind of cute and he was probably shy and avoiding attachments to the people he was responsible for. He’s a bit of an expert in digging into ancient Imperial ruins. I hope that you can show me some here.”

Lissia grinned. “I can do that. Jorge is going to be busy this afterten testifying at the tribunal. I can show you some things before we go over and pick him and grandfather up.”

Jorge was sworn in and started his presentation. “I am Captain Jorge Tollings, Republican Marine Corps. I am in command of the special task unit of the presidential detail under the Commandant of the Marine Corps and High Admiral Harper. At the beginning of Frore I was tasked to infiltrate into the captured city of Ishendell and as part of my tasks, get a record of the atrocity committed by General Headbasher, 2nd Army and the Darkmage. I was also to secure 2nd Army’s headquarters and all records relating to events in Ishendell. This presentation is based on my collection of that intelligence, observations of actions and the subsequent capture of 2nd Army headquarters before anything could be destroyed.  This report will contain what I saw here at Ishendell and the actions that I undertook against the Darkmage and 2nd Army.”

Jorge repeated the presentation that he had given at the Conclave and when he was done, the prosecuter had a few questions and then it was the defense’s turn. The attorney, who managed to look slimy even in his impeccable uniform said, “Captain Tollings, you have had a rather short career with the marines, have you not?”

“I have been in the marines for about three years, yes.”
“That seems to be a very short career for somebody of your rank, especially since you didn’t have any experience as an officer.”
“You would have to ask the commandant and the President about that. I will add that I was a Service lieutenant, also in the marines before I was taken.”

“Yes, you were taken. You had another career, didn’t you?”
“I served with Great Captain Zylvyre for five years.”
“You didn’t just serve, did you? You were his raidcaptain and planned raids on the Republic and the other Blasted Lands, causing many deaths as a consequence.”

“Objection! Relevance to the matter at hand!”

“General, this has bearing on the Captain’s actions
The Adjucator said, “Denied. I want to hear this as well. Captain you may continue.”
“Counselor, the Great Captain selected me as his raidcaptain because he knew that I could get results, make a splash and do that while keeping things from being unavoidably bloody. You have to understand that the Great Captain was under orders as well and he couldn’t necessarily avoid certain things. I wasn’t there by choice and I made the best of a bad situation. I also told the briefing officers everything and that brief can be placed on the record. That is if it can be declassified.”

“I asked and the report must remain classified,” the prosecuter said. “There are security and privacy matters involved. The tribunal can see the brief in a secure setting if there is a need.”

“That will not be necessary. Continue, counselor.”

“You joined as an enlisted man, captain? Why?”
“At the time, it seemed to be the right thing to do. There was a group of us who felt cut off from our families and we just signed up. Nobody asked if I had a reserve rank and I didn’t offer that information. I was hardly the first former officer to enlist as an enlisted man.”
“You were promoted fairly quickly.”
“That was a result of forming the assault units and the need for unit cohesion. It doesn’t really work to have non enhanced noncommissioned officers with enhanced troops as they can’t keep up and the point of the enhanced soldiers was increased efficiency and speed in an assault. So it made sense to raise the noncommissioned officers from inside the ranks.”

“You went on that suicide mission to destroy the Blight factories. Why did you sign up for that?”
“At the time, I felt isolated from my family. All of the volunteers did. So we volunteered.”
“For a suicide mission, you came out very well.”
‘You could ask Stormfire about that. He could easily have run my people over if his brother had let him. He didn’t, and I took advantage of the lack of training of the lady’s people and their willingness to desert.”

“You recruited quite a few of them.”
“They signed up. They were assigned to me. They have been good troops.”
“So you have a monster squad?”
“Counselor, I will not abide anyone disparaging my people. They have gone above and beyond in their service to the Republic.”

“Some of your monsters broke into a hardware store in Fayspire.”
“The sergeant did that as part of completing his mission. He left a message, took a check for the paint and the lock back to the store and the store owner sent it back, uncashed with a note thanking us for risking our lives to make sure that they had a place to go back to. So that was resolved.”
“You have young boys working with you.”
“Counselor, those boys have been through hell, right here in this city. Some of them lost one parent or both. All of them became determined to prevent further horrors like the things that went on here. They volunteered to stay here until things were over and have continued to provide valued skills. That being said, I would send them home if they were not required to use certain equipment recovered here in the city.”

“What equipment?”
“That is classified.”
“That’s a very useful thing to hide behind, captain.”

“I will not reveal tactical or operational details that put my people at risk. The nature of just what equipment my people use is not necessary for this tribunal.”

“You hate the Fellowship. You have a personal animosity towards the Fellowship army and the country.”
Jorge laughed. “Counselor, I just spent a five day helping disarm and remove five Scourge devises that could have killed a large portion of the Fellowship. Frankly, I don’t carry any animosity toward the Fellowship. Nor do I carry any animosity toward the Fellowship army in general. On the other hand, General Headbasher’s actions have my complete contempt. The general earned that as a result of denying the people of this city the chance to evacuate and subjecting them to terror attacks, arranging for over ten thousand to be murdered and another thousand, many of them children and including my fiancé to be trapped here in the city.”

“You are involved in a crooked deal to turn over the old city of Ishendell to your family.”

Jorge shook his head. “Counselor, that is rather absurd.”
“I have the arrangements right here.”
“Hand it to me.”

The councilor did and Jorge laughed again. “This is some old fools playing around. My grandfather, my great uncle and the rest of my grandfather’s friends are playing some games in congress to hand the ruins to me as a wedding present. It looks as if the governor here is in on the game as well. You have probably upset them more than somewhat. You will have to ask them what they are doing, as I have no involvement in this whatsoever. I certainly do not want the ruins.” Jorge handed the claim back. “If Congress and the governor are involved, the deal could hardly be called hidden and crooked.”

“You are colluding with Great Captain Paeris Zylvyre.”

“Counselor anything that I may or may not have been doing with Paeris Zylvyre comes under the heading of revealing operational details. I certainly can’t deny that we know each other.”

“No more questions, sirs.”

Jorge stepped down and was intercepted by a smiling Harald and Galant. Harald slapped his grandson on the back and said, “You handled that very well, Jorge.”

“You and your friends didn’t help.”
“Actually, handing the ruins over to you was the governor’s idea. I just looked into who was responsible for the ruins as part of what I was doing, since the family had owned the city a long time ago. Since essentially nobody lived in the ruins or could live there, there was nobody to take care of them and now there are legitimate military reasons to keep things discreet, but the state government and the army can’t afford to keep a guard. On the other hand, you are cleared, already familiar with the place and related, so once I broached the idea, the governor went for it. We were saving it for the wedding, but that clown spoiled that. The bill is on the President’s desk now. You handled yourself very well.”

“He was on the ball. He also has a mole in the commandant’s office.”
“How do you know?”
“The thing with the hardware store. I put that in the brief and some clown upstairs had a fit over the check that wasn’t cashed. General Ironaxe squashed it, but nobody in the Empty Lands, 1st Division or the Hidden City raised an eyebrow over that over the fact that Nightblade requisitioned some paint. So the councilor has a contact in the Commandant’s office. That was probably where he got the personnel details about the boys and the sergeant’s people.”

“I’ll have somebody look into that. You shouldn’t have to worry about leaks blowing an operation.”

“Thank you grandfather.”

“There are lines that should not be crossed and you shouldn’t have to worry about your people getting hurt because an idiot flapped his mouth. Attacking you about Paeris was one thing and you don’t have anything to be ashamed of because you enlisted as an enlisted man.”

“My reserve rank was how they bumped me straight to captain. I had actually forgotten about it until the paperwork caught up with me. It was easy to bump me to captain when I already was a reserve captain anyway.”

“Let’s find Stacey and Lissia and port up to the House.”
“I see my boss and General Harper, so they get their chance at me.”

Jorge stood at attention and saluted and Dumag said, “At ease, captain. You did an excellent job there.”
“We were discussing the councilor having a mole in the Commandant’s office, Dumag,” Harald said.

“What makes you think that he does?”
“He went after Sergeant Nightblade requisitioning that paint, sir,” Jorge said “The only person that even saw that was the accounting officer in the Commandant’s office because I sent the uncanceled check and had to explain why the check wasn’t canceled. I didn’t put the details in my report to you or the Commandant.”

“So the details had to come from the Commandant’s office.”

“I believe so.”
“I will have people look into it, Dumag,” Harald said. “We really can’t have people leaking things that might give somebody operational details at this point.”
“That’s a surprise coming from you, admiral. You hadn’t been very enthusiastic about what Jorge was doing.”

“I’ve seen Jorge operate now, met his people and come to appreciate why the Republic needs a force like Jorge’s. The fact that he can operate discreetly across borders and with other countries makes him an invaluable asset. At this point we can’t afford to lose that.”

“Now that the Darkmage has started to actually send Scourge devises, that is certainly true,” a woman said.

Harald turned and smiled, “Stacey, why are you here?”
“Grandfather, mother wanted me here to work on the arrangements for the wedding.”

“This is your great uncle Galant, General Harper and General Ironaxe. I see that Lissia has latched on to Jorge already.”

“How did it go?”

“Well, in spite of the defense counselor. He spilled some things that I was trying to keep a bit discreet.”

“Military secrets?”
“Not really, unfortunately.  He was pushing, though.”

“Then why don’t we go and head up to Innshys? I want to take Stacey to the Sanctuary tomorrow,” Lissa said.

“We can port there from the House,” Harald replied. “We are expected for dinner this evening.”

“Is the Conclave still on? I wasn’t sure when I left.”

“The Conclave is over, unfortunately, but there are things going on. In any case, your great aunt and the family will want to meet you, so tonight is just the family.”

“My mother and her husband are going to be there as well, along with my sisters and brother,” Lissia said. “So be prepared for mischief.”

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